Study Reveals Amazing Surge in Scientific Hype

John Horgan:

These are tough times for scientists. As funding has flattened or declined, the competition for grants and glory has grown increasingly fierce. In response, many researchers are touting their work more aggressively.

That is the implication of a new study by three biomedical Dutch researchers (to which communication scholar Matthew Nisbet drew my attention). The authors examined the frequency of 25 positive words—from “amazing” and “astonishing” to “unique” and “unprecedented”–in abstracts listed in the biomedical database PubMed between 1974 and 2014. Here is how they summarize their results in the British Medical Journal, BMJ: